Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Notes Towards Day 22: The Dog and Its Tail

Notes Towards Day 22 of Food for Thought:
The Dog and its Tail

I. Coursekeeping

Friday @ 5 p.m.: 3-pp. collaborative proposals due-->
Submit a joint report on your evolving task:
what your (now shared) question is,
what your
gut responses
are to the range of possible answers,
how you will tackle the project, and who will do what
(include bibliography).

Important both to locate yourselves in relation to the question,
and to locate the question in relation to the class.
(Cf. Critical Feminist Studies papers!)

My own (3 current) collaborative writing projects;
last year's publications:
On Beyond Interdisciplinarity, Journal of Research Practice
Special Issue of Soundings on Emergence theory
academic work seen more generally...

For Tuesday, begin reading Ahab’s Wife
(in the middle:
Chapters 25-28, pp. 142-167);
we'll spend 1/2 the class discussing the novel,
the other 1/2 workshopping each others' papers.

II. Your postings re:
what (Haidt's description of the relation between emotion and rationality has to do w/ how you are thinking/talking/
writing about your topic
(range from hopefulness through shrugs to despair!)

missing isa, sarah?

III. Go back through Haidt's argument
very gutsy to say:
50 years of psychology/moral philosophy has been
a study of fantasies/post-hoc constructions,
not origins of behavior
challenge to notion (Descartes et. al.) that
we are consciously in control of our behavior

most behavior emerges from us...
and then we think up an explanation
descriptive, not a prescriptive project:
but how can we use it?

(start w/ your reactions to the
story of incest between siblings?)

moral intuitions come first and directly cause moral judgments
moral reasoning is an ex post facto process,
(slow, "cool," "more cognitively expensive") rationalization
of (quick, "hot," "cheaper") gut feeling
(aesthetic? derive from sentiment?)

"moral dumbfounding"
reasoning is rarely used to question one's own attitudes or beliefs
moral reasoning is usually done interpersonally
rather than privately
yet: "my-side bias," "makes-sense epistemology":
find conclusion that fits prior beliefs
effortful search may feel like introspection,
but is actually a one-sided search for "a priori causal theories"

two illusions:
We believe our moral judgment is driven by our moral reasoning AND/analogously
we expect successful rebuttal of opponent to change their mind:
as if forcing a dog's tail to wag by moving it
with our hand will make the dog happy (!)
explicates bitterness, futility, and self-righteousness
of most moral arguments

Metaphors have entailments:
much moral argument involves trying to
get the other person to apply the right metaphor
(designed to trigger intuitions)

social intuition emergent, from inside out, not outside in...
third-party norm enforcement:
humans keep track of who did what to whom/monitor one another
selective loss of intuitions (parallel to phonology!):
specialize in subset of moral potential
(in a space of possibilities,
you will lose what you are not exposed to)

"maintenance-loss" models of autonomy/community/divinity
attempts to directly teach thinking and reasoning in a classroom setting generally show little transfer to activities outside (!)

principal difficulty in objective moral reasoning:
biased search for evidence
seek out discourse partners to trigger conflicting intuitions
most cognition occurs outside of consciousness


Cf. "Failing Home Economics":
"rational decisions are those you...don’t regret later.”

IV. workshop Lydia and Ilana's proposals?